The Canberra Royals Rugby Union Football Club is proud of many things but among the things is it most proud of is its close association with the national suicide prevention charity RU OK?
The Royals say it is the only ACT sporting club that partners with R U OK? to raise funds for the organisation's vital work around suicide prevention and community connection.
Captain of the Royal's 1 st Division team and R U OK? Community Ambassador, Ben Johnston, said the club began its partnership with R U OK? last year and it was very pleased to have raised around $14,000 at the 2018 R U OK? Day.
That fundraising continues on Saturday with the Royals celebrating their first home games of the season at Phillip Oval and capping off the day with a night at the Hellenic Club in Woden, where specially-designed R U OK? 1st division jerseys will be auctioned. Tickets are $60 with a 6.30pm start.
"We are very determined to build on last year's success," Ben said.
"A key message R U OK? conveys to the Australian public is, 'reminding people that having meaningful conversations with mates and loved ones could save lives'.
"This message is particularly powerful and resonates across the Royals playing group.
"I encourage as many people as possible to come along, enjoy the rugby and donate to this wonderful cause."
Ben, 32, who works in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, became an R U OK? Ambassador through its former R U OK? chief executive, Canberra man Brendan Maher. Ben wanted to continue to play a role with the organisation and infuse its values into the club.
He has a personal connection to suicide from his home community on the NSW north coast.
"At the junior club I used to play with before I moved to Canberra, one of the boys in first grade took his own life and I saw the way it impacted on the whole community," he said. "I guess when I saw that happen, I didn't want it to happen at my club in Canberra."
Ben said he wanted all members of the club to feel supported but especially the young players coming in each year to join the Colts program.
"Obviously, we're all footballers and we're supposed to be tough but with that, there might be a reluctance to speak out because they don't want to be seen as weak. That's something we are working to change."
Ben felt "super-privileged" to be an R U OK? ambassador and he was determined to ensure its principles were promoted by the club every day of the year.
"I want to make sure that if anyone is having troubles, whether it's in their personal life, if it's work, money, we want them to feel comfortable and supported and know that there is always someone at the club to talk to," he said.